Shifter's Moon (Paranormal Shifter Romance)

BOOK: Shifter's Moon (Paranormal Shifter Romance)
8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

Shifter’s Moon

 

 

Copyright 2013 Riva Blacksone

 

 

Prologue

1875, Massachusetts

 

The fire in the hearth cracked like the knuckles of an old man. Eliza put her palms out in front of her, feeling the warmth of the flames tickle her skin and move up her arms.  The rafters of the cabin creaked and settled above her, their dark wood catching the ghostly orange and red shadows.  She would often stare into the burning coals for hours at a time.  She’s hypnotized by the flame her Papa would say in his booming voice.  He’d left the homestead two days ago to head north, and Eliza had latched onto his knees and refused to let go.

             
“Look, cherub.  I’ll be back in a coupla days, okay? I promise,” he’d said, and reached down with the huge flat of his palm and patted her head.  His big dark eyes seemed to blend into the ebony of the rest of his face, and in the shadows all you could make out were the whites of his eyes.

             
“Promise!” Eliza had shouted back at him.

             
“I promise, cherub,”

Eliza rocked on her haunches and counted the days on her small pudgy fingers.  One.  Two.  He should have been back by now.  She leaned forward, feeling the weight of her body slump as her eyes became heavy.  Her long black hair seemed to catch the reflection of the fire and she yawned.  For a five year old she was unusually quiet, but Papa said all children on his side of the family were born old.

Eliza didn’t understand what he meant by that.  She didn’t have any other siblings, but she thought she would have enjoyed another sister.  Behind her Mother’s knitting clicked delicately.  The older woman was fair-skinned and had deep blond hair that wound itself to her broad hips, but she’d always braid it into a long pony tail.  Eliza liked the way Mother and Father’s hands looked when they held each other, the dark end of his thumb curling over her thin pale wrist.  It was the reason they had to live all the way out here.  Folks didn’t like the way white and black looked together.  When Eliza looked in the mirror, she thought she looked like the perfect combination of the two. 

             
“You tired, baby?” Mother said, looking up from her yarn.

Eliza nodded and picked at the thin cotton of her dress.  There were dirt smudges on her knees from where she’d been crawling around in the garden.  The small cleared acreage looked ominous through the single window, especially with the way the moon stared down at it like a furious eye from behind the clouds.

             
“When’s Papa comin’?” she whined.

Mother put down her yarn and stood up.  The simple blue dress could barely hide the strong muscled frame underneath.  Eliza loved to watch Mother in the garden when she wore a pair of Father’s trousers, or when she’d split wood with the double-headed axe out back.

             
“Soon, soon.  He might even be back tonight, see that moon?” Mother said, bending down and lifting Eliza to her breast.

Eliza squinted at the moon and made a growling sound.  She didn’t like when the moon was full, because it meant she had to stay inside the cabin.  Mother and Father would get very serious and their faces would become as stern and sharp as flint.  One time Eliza had tried to follow them outside, but they’d locked the door, and Eliza had started to cry.  Every time she’d hear the mournful howls of timber wolves touring the far pine hill, their cries shattering the stillness of the night with a melody that was anything but human.  The howls would always circle the cabin, and Eliza would whimper and run to the single bedroom and hide under the musty furs until morning.  It wasn’t fair.  She had wanted to join them, but Papa had told her that she wasn’t old enough yet and that it wasn’t safe.

They would always come back, and Eliza would run and jump into Mother’s arms and cry again while she stroked he hair and rocked her gently.   

             
“She won’t be ready in time,” Father would say, and shake his head.

Tonight the moon was more of a threat than a promise.  Eliza rubbed her eyes and tucked her head deeper into the crook of Mother’s arm.  She smelled like split cedar, and there was something warm and welcoming about it.  The house creaked again, settling on its foundations, and in the distance an owl spoke out from its perch deep in the forest.  Suddenly Mother’s head cocked, and Eliza gently opened her eyes. 

             
“Quiet now, baby,” she said, and set Eliza down on the chair. 

The sound of heavy pattering seemed to insinuate itself from outside.  The pattering became footsteps, running strides, getting closer, and Eliza saw Mother hasten to the fireplace and grasp the smooth handle of the axe.

             
“Go into the bedroom, Eliza,” she said quickly.  Eliza recognized the tone of her voice, and obeyed immediately.  She crawled under the big pelt and pulled it over her head. The sound of footsteps became louder and finally stopped at the edge of the cabin.  Eliza peeked out under the furs and felt her small heart thumping. She was afraid that Mother would be able to hear it and scold her. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on slowing its rapid beating. 

             
“Victoria, it’s me!” came a voice that seemed to rock the cabin on its logs.

Eliza recognized Papa’s voice and her eyes brightened as she jumped off the bed and ran towards the door.  Mother dropped the axe and opened it just as Father burst in, his face heavy and frightened and sweat pouring down under the wide brim of his hat.

             
“Carl, what’s going on?”

             
“We have to leave now.  I don’t know how, but they must of tracked us. I was in town and they jumped me.  I barely made it out,” he said, trying to catch his breath.  When he saw Eliza he gave her a grin and marched over to her, lifting him into his arms with one sweep.  “There’s my girl!”

Mother ran into the bedroom and Eliza heard her rustling with something.

             
“You’re late!” Eliza said.

             
“I know, I’m sorry.  But we have to go on a little trip, okay?”

             
“I don’t wanna.”

Papa kissed her on the forehead and nodded at Mother who appeared from the bedroom in a pair of Papa’s trousers and his extra jacket.  She had a small canvas pack slung over one arm and picked up the fallen axe in the other.

             
“Where do we go?” she asked brusquely.

Eliza didn’t like the way her eyes were set – it reminded her of the times she and Papa left on the full moons, and her fingers instinctively tightened into small fists.

             
“Head for the river, we’ll take the canoe down to Portsmouth.”

             
“How’d they find us?” Mother asked breathlessly.

             
“I don’t know.  But the leadership has changed.  They’re not satisfied with exiling us any longer.”

             
“What about the others… Ben, Lisa?”

Papa shook his head, and Mother’s face seemed to age several years.  “All the exiles.  They’re hunting us all down.  We have to go,” he repeated.
             

“What about the cabin?”

Eliza closed her eyes again and hung on as they moved briskly into the night air.  She felt Papa pick her up again and Mother helped her onto her back.

             
“I’ll take care of the cabin, you make for the canoe.  If I’m not there in ten minutes, you go with Eliza,” he said harshly, and Eliza felt his bristles against her forehead as he kissed her again. “I love you baby girl.”

Mother took off at a run and Eliza had to struggle to hold on as they darted over the cleared logs and branches and moved into the vastness of the timberline.  The fresh smell of the woods was intoxicating and Eliza could pick up the hint of other animals – rabbit, deer, and something else that she couldn’t name.  Eliza’s eyes had trouble adjusting to the dark, but Mother was running full speed through the dark, her breath a measured staccato.  Up ahead the sound of the river burbled and they entered into a small clearing that hedged the shoreline.

Mother helped Eliza down onto the cold dew of the grass and shuffled off the rucksack.

             
“This way, step light,” Mother whispered, skidding down the steep bank and splashing up to her ankles into the frigid river. 

She helped Eliza into the broad belly of a birch-bark canoe that Father had spent most of the summer building.  The flexible ribs of the vessel creaked and shuddered as they accepted the girl’s weight and Eliza spread out her hands on either side to keep the boat from rocking.

             
“Where’s Papa?”

             
“He’s coming.  You shush now, alright?  It’s time to be really quiet, you can do that right?” Mother whispered back.

Eliza nodded.  Several long moments passed and the sound of footsteps could be heard.  Mother picked up the axe and climbed back up onto the shoreline.  In the distance there was crackling that reminded Eliza of the coals in the fireplace, and a haunting orange glow seemed to rise in the direction of the cabin.  The footsteps staggered into the clearing and over the edge of the bank Eliza could make out Papa’s slow reeling strides as he collapsed.

             
“Carl!” Mother shouted, running forward.

             
“They’re coming, Vic, you gotta go…”

Eliza felt fear grow into a cold ball in her stomach.  She wanted to shout out for him, but she kept her mouth sealed.  She choked back a small sob and leaned over the gunwale of the canoe. 

I love you…Victoria,” Papa said, and then there was a silence and Eliza almost cried out again.  She bit her tongue to keep from crying and tasted the saltiness swim under tongue.  In the dark Mother was a dark shape leaning over him, and her stillness frightened Eliza.

             
“Papa…” Eliza finally murmured, and it was enough to shake Mother’s reverie.

Wordlessly the tall woman stood up and hustled to the shoreline.  There were more sounds, like a crescendo of drum-beat echoing in the woods, and Eliza recognized them as footsteps, dozens of them coming in different directions.

             
“Why’s Papa-”

             
“Listen, Eliza.  You listen, okay?  You gotta be strong, now.  There’s bad things coming.  You lie down now, lie down real straight in the bottom of the canoe and you don’t make a sound, no matter what.”

             
“Mama, I’m scared, I don’t-”

Mother wrapped her arms tightly around Eliza, and the girl felt the air leave her lungs.  Mother was crying, and even though Eliza couldn’t see the tears in the dark she knew by the way the older woman’s shoulders shook.  Mother held her for what seemed a long time until the sound of footsteps got louder.  She felt Mother’s soft lips touch her cheek and the weight of her jacket thrown over top of her as she nestled into the belly of the canoe like she’d been told.

             
“You be quiet, good girl.  No matter what, I love you.  Just remember that. Don’t make a sound.”

The canoe pushed out into the current and the sound of waves slapped against the birch bark sides.  Eliza lifted herself up and peered over the bow.  She saw Mother’s silhouette stand up on the bank and a dozen other shapes seemed to slink out of the shadows like drops of water. 

             
“Let’s get this over with, you son of a bitch,” Mother said, and the other shapes converged on her.  There was a muted sound of steel moving through flesh and screams and the wet heavy thud of bodies falling.

Eliza gasped and her whole body began to shiver as she ducked down again, her back tucked against the bottom beam of the canoe.  She stared up at the sky which was like a paralyzed pilgrimage of fireflies.  They twinkled coldly, dispassionately.  She could make out the frozen constellation of a wolf, its jaws open and single eye gleaming in a faint yellow star. 

She sobbed and wrapped her mother’s jacket around her.  The warm safe smell still clung to it, and as she continued to stare up at the sky she tried to imagine being back in the cabin, the heat of the fireplace, the gentle nibbling sounds of Mother’s sewing needles.  A low growl escaped from her lips as her eyes darkened, and she felt a sharp needling sensation move through her whole body.  Behind her the scent of blood plucked at a corner of her mind she had never explored, and she felt an animal rage beat against her heart. 

Rage and revenge

When she finally closed her eyes, it was to the perpetual tick of the river as it carried her further downstream and away from the only life she had ever known.

 

 

Chapter One

             

“That’s a real bummer, dude,” the voice on the other end of the cellphone murmured.

That’s a light way of putting it
, Jake thought, and took a sip from the coffee mug nestled between his legs.  Through the open window of his car the sun shone against his face as he passed through a grove of old cedars.  Part of him was worried that the old car wouldn’t make it all the way, and each time he pulled too hard on the steering or had to climb a hill he made a secret deal with the universe.  
Just get me to the acreage, then die.  Hell, if you get me all the way there, I’ll give you a proper funeral.

BOOK: Shifter's Moon (Paranormal Shifter Romance)
8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Death in Ecstasy by Ngaio Marsh
A Rather English Marriage by Angela Lambert
A Monster of a Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon, Scott Burroughs
Relay for Life by Downs Jana
The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred
Pascali's Island by Barry Unsworth
Wings of Destruction by Victoria Zagar
Holes by Louis Sachar